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Cold Comfort Farm Book Review (#92)

Book: Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

#92 on the Telegraph’s 100 novels everyone should read.

Grade: C

What is the story about?

The story follows the adventure of Flora Poste, a 19 year old recently orphaned young woman, who decided to go live with her relatives, the Starkadder’s, on Cold Comfort Farm. She quickly took it upon herslef to clean up their gloomy lives and ‘make things right.’

Verdict:

I don’t really know what to make of this book really. Apparently, it is a satire. It is a parody on Jane Austen, D.H. Lawrence, and the Bronte sisters’ work although i can’t really see the connection at all. (I am very familiar with the Bronte sisters and Austen’s work, not so much Lawrence.)

Going through this book, you really do feel like the writer is trying to make a joke, but you don’t really know at who or why you should laugh. So yeah, I don’t get the joke really.

As for the storyline, Flora Poste makes herself out to be the Fairy God Mother of Cold Comfort Farm. She first transforms Elfine into Cinderella, helps Seth be a movie star, and sets everyone in the right direction so they can finally achieve their ‘happily ever after’. Then suddenly, at the end of the book, she remembers that she is only 19 years old and sadly, did not get her happily ever after and calls her lover to come whisk her away to find her own happiness.

I would’ve given this book a D except that it was an easy and pleasant read. So Gibbons’ writing style is the only thing that pushes my rating to a C .. barely though.

————————- Next Read —————————-

#91 on the list: The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shibiku.

This is the 3rd bok on this list that can be used as a weapon as well (1000+ pages). The first I loved and still holds the top ranking of books I read in this list, the second I refused to finish (1001 Arabian Nights) because of its vulgarity and racism, and actually gave it away as I do not want it anywhere in my house.

And this is my thrid. We’ll see how it goes .. though being written 1000 years ago makes me a bit worried lol..

Happy reading!

Book Reviews · Reading

Book: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (#93)

Book: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carre

#93 on the 100 novels everyone should read.

Grade: A

What is the story about?

The story is about the British secret service, called the ‘Circus’ in the novel. There seems to be a mole within the spying agency. George Smiley, a retired member of the circus, was called in to sniff out the spy. But the question remains: “Who can spy on the spies?”

Verdict:

All I knew about this book before picking it up was that it is a British spy novel. I was hoping it to be like a James Bond movie. Turns out, it was much better!

Thinking of spies, you usually think of gun totting action in the dark. But this book was filled with intense psychological action instead of physical.  True, it was a bit confusing at first with all the characters (at one point I thought JP and control were the same person lol) and there was a lot of industry related jargon that some I still don’t know what they are, but the story line was amazingly written and gripping from beginning to end.

John le Carre is a pseudoname to a man who actually worked in this field (spying or intelligence gathering). Only a person who was on the inside can write a story so realistic. It is not one of those: Oh I am a superhero spy that can jump on buildings and walk through walls. It shows the painstaking work that goes with being a spy, the going through numerous files for days on end, cross referencing and trying to find one discrepency to catch a lie.

** mini spoiler **

The book is generally about espionage, trust, and loyalty. There’s a British mole who sold his country and friends out to the Russians. He tried to explain later that he did so on the grounds of morality and principle. Who’s side are you on in the cold war? Who do you want to win which inevitablly means whose ideals do you want to win and want to live under? This British gentlemen chose the East’s ideals, thus betraying his long time coworkers and friends by feeding the opposition with crucial info and busting all the circus’ missions, and by betraying the man who loved him. Which takes us to the next important theme: love.

George Smiley loved his wife dearly. This was his downfall, as Karla (the head of Russian spies) believed. He ordered his mole to court Ann, Smiley’s wife. He said this will distort his image of the mole if he knew his wife loved him. It will also affect him when he knows that everyone around him knows that his wife is sleeping around with his trusted coworker. And it worked.

Then there is the fatherly love that Guillam had towards the mole. He saw him as his mentor and wanted to be just like him. And lastly, there is JP’s love to the mole. The mole recruited JP at Oxford and their relationship is hinted to be a romantic one. JP had a feeling that his lover was the mole and actually tried to warn him before JP went on the mission that was supposed to reveal the mole’s identity.

At the end, the mole was captured. A day or two before he went to Russia, he was found dead on the grounds next to where he was held. Who killed him? It was never stated in the book .. but you get the feeling that JP killed him.

This brings us to the different reactions people have towards betrayal.

His friends and coworkers were visibly shaken, but left knowing their lives will go on. His superior was angry but accepted responsibility and acted accordingly.

As for the people who were in ‘love’, Guillam was physically angry at his paternal idol. He sprang forward at him to show his anger and disdain. He expalined that moment as being “orphaned”. His ‘illusion’ was shattered and he finally had “grown up”.

Then there was JP, who is thought to have cracked his lovers neck for the ultimate betrayal.

Then there is George Smiley, the level headed man who even Karla vouched for his excellence. Smiley accepted the betrayal and waited for his wife’s return, which may be seen as an act of forgiveness in the face of betrayal.

The “last illusion of the illusionless man” Karla has said about Ann’s worth to George.

Is love an illusion, as Karla describes it? If so, how will you behave faced with betrayal by this illusion?

I think my reaction would be closer to George’s, though i know for sure my love is not an ‘illusion’.

———————————————- Next Book —————————————–

My next book is Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. Goodreads says the book “is a wickedly funny portrait of British rural life” .. The last book i read that portrays British rural life was the most boring book i ever read in my whole entire life (book review here). Here’s to hoping this one is better..

Happy reading!

 

Book Reviews · Reading

Book Review: Midnight’s Children (#94)

Book: Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

#94 on the 100 novels everyone should read

Grade: A

What is the story about?

The story follows the life of Saleem Sinai, who was born at the same time of new India. Saleem, and a thousand others, were born alondside the birth of a nation. Because of the significant time of their birth, all 1001 “midnight children” acquired magical powers. The story unfolds and changes as the path of their new found nation changes as well.

Verdict:

This is the exact reason why I started this journey, following this list of 100 books. I would’ve never picked up this book browsing in a book store. Not really a fan of fantasy or anything whimsical, I would never choose to read a book that follows the life of a person who can sniff out people’s thoughts and emotions.

But I loved it and was greatly moved by it (thank you list for making me read this book).

Turns out, Saleem is a very good story teller. I don’t really know why some say it’s a hard read (maybe I’m comparing it to previous reads from this list which were mostly a struggle to read) as I found it flowed very nicely.

It’s like being told a bedtime story by your grandmother: yes sometimes she gets a bit off track, yes sometimes she skips events and gets back to them later, yes sometimes things she says can’t possibly be true; but you know you are completely mesmerized and can’t wait till the next day for her to finish off her fascinating story.

But the thing about this story that really touched me is the history. Saleem’s grandfather was from Kashmir, he was born in Bombay, moved with his family to Karachi where the India-Pakistan war happened, then later the Pakistan-Bangladesh war took place.

Why is history so violent and sad? And why does it keep happening over and over?

Saleem, fighting with his adopted country, found his childhood friends fighting on the other side. Why were friends and families fighting so visciously against one another? Yes I realize I don’t know all the history behind the conflict, but it just hits you hard when reading the book.

Fighting with Pakistani troops, they shunned their opponent’s as the “others”; the Hindus; the vegeteranians. “Vegetables always lose to meat”, they said.

When labeling them as “others”, us against them, it is easy to dehumanize them and forget they once were childhood friends and family.

Then, Saleem Sinai and his Pakistani troops found they were not assigned to fight the Hindus anymore, they wouldn’t “kapow the vegeteranians”, they were ordered to kill their “brothers”, the Muslim region of East Pakistan which later became Bangladesh.

And they didn’t only kill. Ten million refugees fled from the war to India.. 10 million. As Rushdie explains, 10 million … is a number that refuses to be understood. 10 million of mothers, fathers, and children. 10 million of grandpaernts and grandkids who were all originally brothers and sisters from one country.

Shahhed and I saw many things which were not true, which were not possible, because our boys would not could not have behaved so badly; … but it was not true because it could not have been true, the Tiger was a decent chap, after all, and our jiwans were worth ten babus…”

Shaheed, when he saw all the devestation the war caused, said:

No buddha – what a thing, Allah you can’t believe your eyes – no, not true, how can it – buddha, tell, what’s got into my eyes?

Saleem (buddha) replied:

A person must sometimes choose what he will see and what he will not; look away, look away from there now.

But we shouldn’t look away. When will it stop? When we stop labeling people as “the other.”

So the next time you see someone different, something you don’t understand, a Hindu or a Muslim, Turban wearing or Hijab, black or white or yellow ..  whatever the “other” is, stop focusin on what makes them different and just remember, we are all humans, with mothers and fathers praying for us, and children waiting for us; no matter what our religion or color is.

Yes, this book really moved me, not just because Rushdies is an amazing writer, not just because of the magical world created, but because, to me, it was a strong political statement.

Stop the hate .. Spread the love!

The only thing that was a bit dissapointing is that book 3 (the novel is divided into 3 books) was not as good as the ones before it. I understand Rushdies used this scection to tie up loose ends, to bring the book to a definite closure, but it wasn’t as powerful as the previous books. Also, the recurring 1001 number and even Shahrazads name reminds me of ‘that’ book, the only book I ever started and refused to finish :/

All in all, amazing read! I recommend it to everyone really.

Next book: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carre. A British spy novel .. like James Bond hopefully .. will find out as soon as my Amazon package arrives.

Happy reading everyone!

 

Book Reviews · Reading

Book Review: The Sorrows of Young Werther (#95)

Book: The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johan Wolfgang von Goethe

#95 on the Telegraph’s 100 novels everyone should read

Grade: D

What is the story about?

The style of the book is like a diary. It is a set of letters from Werther to his good friend Wilhelm. And the entire story is about his forbidden love to Lotte, a girl already engaged and later married.

Verdict:

What can I say? The story was very sad; not as in heartbreaking sad, but pathetic sad.

**spoiler**

You have a man, who cries and wails the entire novel about how life isn’t fair, how he loves a girl (whom he knew was engaged before he met her) and can never have her.

He keeps the self pitying theme going on as he tries to hold a job, but left because (gasp), his boss doesn’t give him enough credit. He quit and went back running to Lotte where he slowly loses his mind and decides to kill himself.

What is the point of this story? Your life is over if a girl doesn’t love you back? If a girl dumped you, lose hope in life? Quit a job as soon as it gets a bit rough and uncomfortable? Give up when things don’t go your way?

And who is this Lotte anyway, that deosn’t only make one man go mad, but two.

The only thing I liked in this story is his lovely description of the nature around them. That’s it really.

Next book: Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. I look forward to reading a book with a bit more substance. Hopefully it’s better that what I’ve read so far.

—————— Note about book #96: The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1001 Nights—————-

I never started a book that i didn’t finish. When I start a story (even movies), I need to know the ending no matter how boring or silly it is.

I guess there’s a first time for everything as I refuse to finish reading the book. The racism, sexuality, and vulgarity in this book is repulsive. It does  not deserve one of my daughters bookmarks in it. 

I will happily make it a journey of 99 books instead of 100 if it means I can throw this book away!

 

Book Reviews · Reading

Book Review: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (#97)

Book: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

#97 on the Telegraph’s 100 novels everyone should read.

Grade: C

What is the story about?

The story is a comedy science fiction. It follows the adventures of Arthur Dent, who is the last surviving human after the destruction of planet earth. The book is the first of a series of five novels.

 Verdict:

I am a bit worried to review this book because of its huge following. But, as always, I will be honest and say truly what I think.

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 Honestly, I am torn. On one hand, the book is very funny in some parts. It makes fun of the political and economic systems, religion, power, money, and so much more in a light and funny manner. Adams also has very clever and witty quotes throughout the book that are pure genius. It’s also important to remember this book was published in 1979, and how this book predicted many of our everyday tech is uncanny. Like the Hitchhiker’s guide itself is a digital book and the computer is touch screen.

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 But… ** SPOILER ALERT **

The storyline is plain ridiculous. A man from England was saved from the Earth’s destruction by a friend of his, who turned out to be an alien. They hitchhiked a ride in a spaceship. Then they were kicked out of it and one second before they die in space, they were picked up by another spaceship, which was stolen by the intergalactic president, who has two heads and three arms btw. The outlaw president wanted to go to a planet which legend says has a lot of money. The planet used to make custom planets for the rich and they are the ones who made Earth. They were commissioned by mice to do it, who btw are running the show on Earth. All this so a clever computer can answer the ultimate question of the universe: What is the point of life?

 So what is the point of life according to the computer? 42.

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 As I said, I am torn. I think I might have to agree with the people who say the Hitchhiker’s Guide is a one liner book. It is full of gems here and there but the middle is not so good.

 On the back cover, the Washington Post Book World calls it “inspired lunacy”. I think it’s more of lunacy with some inspiration scattered through. Sorry Hitchhiker’s Guide fans, this is my honest opinion 🙂

 quotes-hitchhikers-12.jpg

Next book: 1001 nights. I am actually not really looking forward to it as I am not a fan of short stories, and the book being 960 pages (and it’s only volume I), but I will give it a try. If I like it, I will read the next two volumes. If I don’t, will go to book # 95.

 Happy reading all.

Book Reviews · Reading

Book Review: The Home and the World (#98)

Book: The Home and the World by Rabindranath Tagore

#98 on the Telegraph’s 100 novels everyone should read.

Grade: C

What the story is about?

The book is set in 1908 in one of India’s Maharaja’s estate. There are three main characters: Nikhil (the righteous Maharaja), Bimala (his wife), and Sandip (an outspoken political leader, and Nikhil’s old friend). The book is written in first person as each chapter flips between narrating the perspective and thoughts of each of the three main characters. It is a political tragedy, which sets the political ground and foreshadows the outcome of the partition in 1947.

Verdict?

Honestly, this was a very hard read for me and took me a while to finish, even though it is just 200 pages.

1)      Philosophical writing:

I am honored to read a book written by the man who wrote the Indian national anthem, but I think his writing is above my IQ level. My mommy brain strained to get all the lessons and information given, that I had to reread some passages and sometimes even full pages. I am sure I didn’t get the full meaning of his philosophy, and missed many lessons on the way.

Plus I didn’t really understand the struggle that this book depicts. Bimala was infatuated with Sandip, the strong talking freedom fighter and struggled to balance this feeling with the feelings towards her husband. Apparently, this symbolizes the struggle between the love of Western culture and the revolution against it, hence the name of the book: the home and the world. But I didn’t really understand which character was the ‘home’ and which was the ‘world’. Was Sandip the ‘home’ because he revolted against Western culture and Nikhil the ‘world’ because he embraced it? Or was Sandip the ‘world’ because he emulated Western standards and always read Western books, while Nikhil was ‘home’ because he was the righteous Maharaja who stuck to his roots and his old Indian furniture and refused to change them just to impress foreigners? As I said, I think all this is above my level of reading.

2)      Frustration:

  • Marriage: I remember when I was 15, the movie “Unfaithful” came out. And I remember crying my eyes out. Poor Richard Gere! How could his wife do such a thing?! And I still feel this way. Marriage to me is a sacred thing. And yes of course sometimes it doesn’t work out, but that doesn’t mean you should cheat or lie. End it, then move on. This is one reason I was so frustrated while reading this book. Bimala went from worshiping her husband, saying that her true place was at his feet, to being infatuated by Sandip and actually losing respect for her husband because he was level headed and not so rash. No human can possibly offer me, or tell me anything that will diminish my infatuation, love, and respect for my husband, and if I can, I will bend down and take the “dust off his feet.”
  • Why?!? It was such a frustrating two weeks for me. We all got sick, one at a time. Why isn’t the fever going down even after giving the meds? Why is my son sick again after only three days of being ok from his first virus attack? Why does their school field trip that they’ve been waiting for have to be the day they have a fever and feel miserable? Then after their bedtime, I start reading my book and the ‘why’s’ start again. Why Bimala why? Why are you letting this guy break the strongest most sacred bond you have? Why Nikhil are you letting him do it, and allowing him to stay in your house? Why Sandip will you do this to your friend and your country just for selfish personal gains? Why?

 

Now that all the kids are better (its just me left with a fever), hopefully all the frustration is over.. Next book: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Don’t know why but the name reminds me of the Solomon family from 3rd rock from the sun. We’ll see how it goes.

Book Reviews · Reading

Book Review: To Kill a Mockingbird (#99)

Book: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

#99 on the Telegraph’s 100 novels everyone should read.

Grade: B

What is it about?

The story follows six year old Jean Louise Finch (a.k.a. Scout; also the narrator of the story) and her family in the 1930’s in Alabama. Her father, Atticus, was appointed to defend a black man, Tom Robinson, accused of raping a white woman. Scout and her older brother Jem had to face being called names and were forced to comprehend the injustices of the world early in life.

Verdict?

I enjoyed reading this book. It has a very powerful message about racism, class, and prejudice in general that still resonates today. Also, being narrated by a kid and seeing the events unfold through the eyes of a 6-7 year old is very refreshing.

That being said, I understand why the book is studied at the middle school / high school level. The characters are all one dimensional. Both the story and characters are very simple and straight forward. Maybe this is deliberate to not take away from the limelight of the heavy issue on hand, but in the end, it gives a very simplistic impression on a reader.

It is also a bit too idealistic for me. Atticus can never realistically exist in real life. His sense of right and wrong is impeccable. Every word he utters is filled with wisdom and is a life lesson. This takes away from the realisticness of the story. I, as a reader, like to live in the novel that I read. I couldn’t really do that with this book. I find it very odd and funny that a fantasy book, The Lord of the Ring, felt more ‘real’ to me than this one.

In conclusion, I think it’s a wonderful book. Great read, and can’t wait for my kids to be in that age group so I can read and discuss it with them.

I also think it will make a great movie (I know there is one, haven’t seen it though and a remake is overdue). Hollywood will do great dramatizing the story and hailing Atticus as the hero that he is. As a movie, it would be amazing! As a novel, it is good, not amazing, but very good.

 Next book, The Home and the World by Rabindranath Tagore. I am so excited to read about a new culture, written in 1916 all the way from Calcutta India. The henna design on the cover is mesmerizing, hope the book is too.